World Sea Turtle Day, June 16, is a day to honor and highlight the importance of sea turtles. These creatures are spectacular, because they are not only beautiful, but also show incredible endurance and resilience - after all, they have been nesting on the beaches for millions of years. But with 8 million tons of plastic thrown into the oceans every year, six out of seven sea turtle species are threatened with extinction.
World Sea Turtle Day would not be rightly celebrated without mentioning Dr. Archie Carr, the founder of the Sea Turtle Conservancy and the father of sea turtle biology. The day is celebrated on the same day as Dr. Carr's birthday, June 16th, and he will forever be remembered for his contributions to the sea turtle conservation movement. His research and advocacy brought attention to the alarming conditions that sea turtles still face today. His work helped create a community that continues to strive for a better life and future for sea turtles worldwide.
Here are 10 facts that show how amazing these creatures are and emphasize why we must fight against plastic pollution that is suffocating our oceans:
1. Turtles do not have teeth. Instead, their upper and lower jaws have keratin sheaths, the same material as your nails, which fit into the skull like a pair of false teeth.
2. Turtle shells are made up of more than 50 fused bones, so they literally carry their bones on the outside.
3. The first few years of a sea turtle's life are often referred to as "lost years" because the time between hatching and their return to shallow coastal waters for food is incredibly difficult to study. These "lost years," which can last up to 20 years, remain largely a mystery to humans.
4. Different species of sea turtles vary greatly in size. The smallest ones are about 70 cm long and weigh up to 40 kg, while the leatherback can reach up to 180 cm and weigh 500 kg.
5. It is estimated that only 1 out of 1,000 sea turtle eggs survives to adulthood. And if beaches are littered with garbage, it can prevent hatchlings from making it to the sea.
6. Female leatherbacks make interesting sounds during nesting, some of which sound similar to human burping.
7. Turtles seem to prefer red, orange, and yellow food. They seem to explore these colors more than others when searching for food.
8. Sea turtles are capable of migrating long distances. The record is held by a female leatherback that swam almost 13,000 miles from Indonesia to the western coast of America in 647 days.
9. Female sea turtles return to the same beach where they hatched to nest. Their amazing ability to navigate comes from their sensitivity to Earth's magnetic fields.
10. Despite all these amazing features and adaptations, six out of seven sea turtle species are endangered, and the seventh is listed as vulnerable.
11. Plastic pollution is one of the main threats to sea turtles. In fact, one in two sea turtles has ingested plastic, often mistaking it for food like jellyfish.
We all must play our part in the fight against plastic waste that is suffocating our oceans. Get involved and stay informed about how you can help.
You can find twenty practical tips on how each of us can easily help reduce plastic pollution in this article.